It's been three days since six of the Regulators assassinated Sheriff William Brady and his deputy, George Hindman, in Lincoln's only street. Ever since that time, they've been laying low, hiding in the mountains on the western side of the county. But on this day, they decide to venture out of hiding and get a decent meal at Mrs. Godfroy's restaurant at the Mills. It's possible they're going to the Mills for some alterior motive as well, namely, to assassinate Judge Warren Bristol and D. A. William Rynerson (both members of the Santa Fe Ring and known Dolan associates) on their way up to Lincoln from La Mesilla. This seems unlikely though, since Dick Brewer is leading the Regulators this time, and he was very much against the assassination of Brady, so it's doubtful he's going to want to assassinate a lawyer and a judge. Another possibility, this one far more realistic, is that after they have their meal, the Regulators plan on searching the surrounding hills for other Dolan men that they hold warrants for, namely Dolly Graham (AKA: George Davis) and/or George Kitt.
The Regulators now number sixteen, namely Dick Brewer, Billy "the Kid" Bonney, Charlie Bowdre, Frank MacNab, Doc Scurlock, "Big Jim" French, John Middleton, Henry Brown, Fred Waite, Jose Chavez y Chavez, "Tiger Sam" Smith, John Scroggins, Dirty Steve Stephens, and new recruits Ignacio Gonzales and the cousins George and Frank Coe. Upon entering the Mills, they all ride right up to the Agency building at the top of the hill. Brewer has Smith and Gonzales continue riding past the Mills to do a sweep of the area, to make sure there are no Dolan men in the immediate vicinity. The rest of the men dismount, and Brewer has Middleton stand guard outside while the other thirteen men enter Mrs. Godfroy's restaurant. Mrs. Godfroy has a rule that no guns are to be allowed in the building, so all the Regulators leave their guns on a table located just inside the room. They then all sit down at the large table and wait for one of Mrs. Godfroy's famous, hearty meals.
Shortly thereafter, John Middleton spies a lone rider on a mule approaching the Mills from a distance. Seeing that the man is heavily armed, John runs back inside the restaurant and tells his fellow Regulators about the approaching man. The other Regulators take a look and recognize the man as Andrew L. "Buckshot" Roberts, also known as Bill Williams and Jesse Andrews. Roberts, who has a mysterious past and has been carrying a load of buckshot in his right shoulder for years, is a local rancher and Dolan man who is reputed to have killed several men and rode in the posse that killed Tunstall. There are three possibilities as to why Roberts is going to the Mills: one, that he sold his ranch and was checking the post office to see if his check for it had arrived yet; two, he is going hunting for the Regulators for the reward money on their heads and plans to stop at the Mills for a meal first; and three, he and other Dolan men plan on hunting for the Regulators and rendezvousing at the Mills, only Roberts is the first to arrive.
Roberts rides into the settlement and heads directly to the post office, which tends to give credence to the theory that he was indeed at the Mills expecting a check for his ranch to arrive in the mail. Dismounting his mule, he takes off his gunbelt with his holstered pistol on it, raps it around his saddle horn, and heads into the post office, with his Winchester rifle still in hand. Meanwhile, Dick Brewer tells his fellow Regulators that he has a warrant for Roberts's arrest and that they must take him. Most of the other Regulators, especially Billy "the Kid" Bonney and Charlie Bowdre, who had a shootout with Roberts a few days earlier, seem eager to do so. Frank Coe, who happens to be a neighboring rancher of Roberts and on good terms with the man, volunteers to go outside and try to talk Roberts into a surrender. Wanting to take Roberts without any bloodshed if possible, Brewer allows Frank to go do this. At the same time, Roberts realizes his check has not arrived yet, exits the post office, and begins heading up-hill towards the Agency building on foot, apparently not noticing all the horses belonging to the Regulators in a nearby corral. As he heads towards the building, probably with the intent of getting a meal from Mrs. Godfroy as well, he sees Frank walk out to meet him and realizes his colossal blunder. Frank convinces the old badman to walk over to another side of the Agency building with him and the two sit down on the porch and begin talking.
For a half hour, while most of the Regulators wait in the Agency building's dining room, Frank and Roberts talk. No matter what Frank says, Roberts refuses to surrender to the Regulators. Perhaps Roberts is afraid he'll be executed if he surrenders, perhaps his stubborn pride won't allow him to surrender, or perhaps he is simply stalling, hoping more Dolan reinforcements will arrive soon. Whatever he's doing, both he and the Regulators by now realize that they're all trapped in a deadly stalemate in which no one can leave. If Roberts were to attempt to leave, the Regulators would surely cut him down instantly. If the Regulators were to give up on waiting for Roberts to surrender and decide to just leave the Mills without him, then Roberts would surely see them heading for their horses and gun them down with his rifle. The only answer is a confrontation.
Brewer, now impatient, tells his men that they must now go confront Roberts as a group and take him down by force if need be. With Charlie Bowdre in the lead, the thirteen Regulators exit the dining room, picking up all their guns off the table by the door on the way. When Roberts and Coe see the Regulators round the corner of the Agency building with their guns drawn, both men stand up, Roberts bringing his rifle up to his hip (which is as high as he can get it, due to the buckshot in his right shoulder). With only the distance of a few feet between the Regulators and Roberts, Charlie, with his cocked pistol at his side, yells out "Roberts, throw up your hands!" Roberts's quick response, "Not much, Mary Ann!" is immediately followed by two gun shots, one from Charlie's pistol and one from Roberts's rifle. The slug fired by Roberts hits Charlie square in the belt buckle, shattering it, and dropping his gunbelt (and a stunned Charlie himself) to the ground. The slug then ricochets and tears through George Coe's right hand, knocking his pistol to the ground and shattering his hand. Roberts, however, is not as lucky. Charlie's bullet manages to slam into Roberts right above the left hip and angles downward. The surly old man grunts in pain, yet keeps firing away with his rifle with lightning rapidity. One shot tears into John Middleton's chest just as he was taking aim at Roberts. Middleton drops to the ground, unconscious.With three of their men down, the other Regulators scatter in every direction, firing off random shots in Roberts's general direction as they flee, but no bullet touches him. As he continues to furiously pump the lead out of his Winchester, and as the Regulators take cover behind anything that will keep them out of the bullets' path, Roberts begins to back down the hill, towards the scattering of one-story adobes. As he backs up, another one of his bullets hits Doc Scurlock's still holstered pistol and courses down his leg only seconds before Doc finds cover. Roberts next spies Billy Bonney himself, taking aim at him with his pistol. Before the Kid can get a shot off, though, Roberts fires at him, his bullet just grazing the Kid's arm.
Roberts soon reaches the doorway of one of the one-story adobes. He stops firing and looks around: there are no Regulators in sight, all having taken cover behind piles of logs or stones or behind any of the scattered buildings. He then realizes that his rifle is out of ammo, but he spies his mule, with his pistol and cartridge belt still wrapped around the saddle horn, several dozen yards away. He knows it won't take very long for the Regulators to realize what his current situation is. He has two choices: try to barricade himself in the adobe house and basically put himself at the Regulators' mercy, or take his chances and make an attempt to run over and get his pistol and possibly be in a position to at least hold off the Regulators for a while. Deciding on the latter, he scopes around one last time, sees no Regulators, and quietly takes a few steps out from the doorway towards his mule. As he gets about a third of the way there, Billy Bonney jumps up from behind a pile of logs and runs at Roberts at full speed, firing off his pistol as he goes. The startled Roberts quickly turns around and heads back to the adobe. Just as he gets to the doorway, the Kid comes within arms length of him and points his gun at him. Just as he gets ready to fire, Roberts jabs the end of his empty rifle into Billy's side, causing Billy to jerk and miss his mark. Billy then turns and retreats behind a pile of logs, while Roberts moves inside the adobe, finds a mattress, and gathering as much of his ebbing strength as he can, drags it to the door and uses it as a barricade.
Searching around the room, Roberts finds Dr. Blazer's monstrous old Springfield buffalo rifle and a box of shells. Loading the gun, he lays down on the mattress barricading the door and looks for something to shoot. Meanwhile, Brewer is livid: five of his men have been injured by an old and crippled man, who himself manages to somehow still be alive and fighting. He speaks first with David Easton, a man also visiting the Mills that day, then with Dr. Blazer himself, asking them both to go into the adobe and talk Roberts into a surrender. However, both men refuse to do so, even after Brewer threatens to burn down the building if that is what he has to do to get Roberts out. Even more furious now, Brewer thinks up a plan: he will go to the side of the sawmill building, located several dozen yards across from the adobe house's doorway that Roberts is in. He will then fire some shots at Roberts in an attempt to either kill him or flush him out so that the other Regulators can then finish him off. Brewer carries out the first part of his plan smoothly by walking over to the side of the sawmill building and taking cover behind a pile of logs beside it. He peers over the pile and sees Roberts's form laying on the mattress in the doorway. Taking aim, he fires one shot at Roberts with his pistol, then quickly ducks back behind the pile. The bullet misses Roberts however, and goes into the wall behind him. Shocked by the quick shot, Roberts quickly looks out from his view point to see where the shot came from. Suddenly, he sees a puff of gunsmoke coming up from behind the logpile next to the sawmill. Taking aim, he waits for the head of whoever fired that shot to come up once again. A few moments later, Brewer does indeed stick his head up to see how his first shot went. BOOM!!! A loud shot from the Springfield rifle echos throughout the settlement and the body that was once Brewer flops to the ground with the top half of his head completely destroyed. The next sound heard by all is the dying Roberts yelling out "I killed him! I killed the son-of-a-bitch!"
The Regulators are in utter shock. Their leader, the man they all trusted and respected, is dead, five of their own are wounded, and the man who caused this all might still be capable of taking more of them out. Faced with this, the Regulators, with Frank MacNab taking charge, elect to take their wounded and leave the Mills (and Roberts) behind. Borrowing a wagon, Billy, Doc Scurlock (whose leg wound isn't that serious), Frank MacNab, Big Jim French, Henry Brown, Jose Chavez y Chavez, Fred Waite, Frank Coe, Dirty Steve Stephens, and John Scroggins gather up the wounded John Middleton, George Coe, and Charlie Bowdre and load them in it. The rest of the Regulators then mount their horses and take off. A short time later on the road, the Regulators encounter the local surgeon from Fort Stanton, Dr. Daniel Appel, on his way to Blazer's Mills. Apparently, he had been recently received a telegraph from the Mills requesting he come to offer medical aid to the dying Roberts. Dr. Appel dresses the wounds of the wounded Regulators, then continues on to the Mills.
That night, Dick Brewer is placed in a double-casket, which is then laid in a freshly dug hole in the small Blazer's Mills cemetery. Meanwhile, Dr. Appel meets with Roberts and discovers that he is beyond help and will surely die in a short amount of time. The next day, after giving his own account of the gunfight, and in much agony, Buckshot Roberts himself dies. Shortly thereafter, Roberts is placed in the same casket with Brewer and the hole is then covered with dirt. Two men who died trying to kill each other in life are lying besides one another in eternity.
Meanwhile, the Regulators head to their usual headquarters of San Patricio, where they rest up and treat their wounds. While there, Billy Bonney acquires a batch of carbolic acid for George Coe to dip his smashed right hand in to cauterize the wound. A few days later though, George will have to have his trigger finger amputated by the doctor in Lincoln, Taylor Ealy. The Regulators also decide to make Frank MacNab their new leader. Over the next few weeks, the court will convene in Lincoln and, to the Regulators dismay, the grand jury indicts Charlie Bowdre, Billy Bonney, John Middleton, Henry Brown, Fred Waite, Doc Scurlock, George Coe, John Scroggins, and Steve Stephens for the murder of Roberts, as well as Billy, Middleton, Brown, and Waite for the murders of Sheriff Brady and Deputy Hindman. However, the grand jury also indicts Jessie Evans, Manuel Segovia, Jack Long, and Dolly Graham/George Davis for the murder of John Tunstall, with Jimmy Dolan and Billy Mathews as accessories. Dolan is also indicted, along with partner Johnny Riley, for cattle theft. Perhaps the biggest blows to the Dolan side, though, are that Alex McSween is cleared of any embezzlement charge and John Copeland, a McSween sympathizer, is named Sheriff of Lincoln County to replace the murdered Sheriff Brady. All of these acts set the stage for the next battle in the Lincoln County War.
This is a map of the gunfight's locations. The map is missing the large two-story house, but it should be to the upper right of the "Agency Building." The part of the Agency Building where Brewer's path starts marks the room where the Regulators were eating their lunch, and the part of the building that marks the beginning of Roberts's path is where he and Frank Coe were talking for a half an hour before the fight began.
Blazer's Mills 1881
This is the earliest known photo of the entire Mills, and it looks pretty much how it did on April 4, 1878. The four-square Agency building can be clearly seen at the top of the hill, with the two-story Blazer house located behind it. The one-story adobe that Roberts took cover and died in can be seen downhill, across from the old sawmill building, which itself is hidden behind the long building.
Blazer's Mills 1893
By the time this photo was taken, the Agency building had mostly deteriorated, due to a fire that consumed it in 1886, but Blazer's house can still be seen behind its ruins. The sawmill building that Dick Brewer was killed standing next to can be clearly seen in this photo as well. To see photos of how the Mills looks today, click here and here.